Written by: Craig Warrian
Sleep is a fascinating state that almost all living beings on our planet require. But it is also loosely regarded as a waste, we don’t prioritize it, we short change our sleep for just about any reason (late night TV, work demands, Netflix bingeing, browsing the web, social media etc.). But why are we so willing to forgo our precious slumber?
In this 3 part series, we’ll investigate what sleep is, why we need it and what are some tangible lifestyle changes we can make right now to improve our sleep quality.
We spend approximately one third of our lives sleeping and yet, how much do you really know about sleep and why you need it? Sleep is important, so why are we willing to pass on it?
In 2008 a Stanford University survey was done to assess people’s exposure to knowledge and/or education around 3 key factors of health. Those factors were Fitness, Nutrition and Sleep. Below are the high level results of the survey:
Yes, I have been exposed to knowledge on the following:
- Being physically fit: 99.9%
- Eating a nutritious diet: 91.3%
- Obtaining adequate sleep: 1.8%
I am not a mathematician, but there is clearly a MASSIVE gap in knowledge, awareness and understanding of sleep. How can there be so little information about sleep when it is so fundamental and important to our overall health?
What is sleep?
Trying to define sleep is a challenge unto itself. Is it a state in which our eyes close, body and brain activity cease and we lose consciousness? Not exactly. In fact, during certain “levels” or “stages” of sleep, brain activity can be very high. Physical movement also occurs more regularly than we might think. Amazingly, your eyes don’t even need to be closed to be in a sleep state (say what?).
Here are a couple of characteristics that help define sleep:
- Perceptual Disengagement: Simply put, in a state of sleep we become disengaged from our surroundings (sights, sounds and smells) and require some sort of stimulus to reengage our surroundings.
- Reversibility: Once in a state of sleep to reverse out of that state, there needs to be a certain level of stimulus. The amount of stimulus needed to be awoken depends on the individual and the state of sleep (Light sleep requires little stimulus to wake, while deeper levels of sleep require higher levels of audible or physical stimulus to reverse out of the state of slumber)
Many of us know that there are types or stages of sleep, but what are they and why are they important?
There are two types of sleep:
- REM or Rapid Eye Movement
- NREM or Non Rapid Eye Movement
REM sleep is a deeper stage of sleep in which we spend approximately 25% of our sleep time. In this exciting type of sleep, we achieve our fascinating dreams. During REM, our eyes dart back and forth in synchronicity (hence the name) in conjunction with our brain trying to scan the dream world. In REM sleep we have tremendous brain activity. Not only are our brains trying to scan the dream world (as it would scan the world around us while we’re awake), it is also creating the world that it is scanning.
Non-REM sleep is split up into 4 distinct stages from 1 through 4. Stage 1 is our lightest stage of sleep and we get into deeper stages as we move through stages 2 to 4.
During a night of sleep we move through multiple sleep cycles (3-7 cycles in one night of sleep). Each cycle is approximately 90 minutes in length and comprised of REM and N-REM.
- Stage 1 is our lightest stage of sleep (drowsiness and onset of sleep. Lasting only a few minutes)
- Stage 2 is deeper sleep and is where we spend the majority of our time sleeping (approximately 40-50%)
- Stage 3 and 4 are classified as your deep sleep stages. We only spend 20 – 90 minutes a night in deep sleep, but that is where the body does so much cleaning, healing and building.
Deep sleep is usually only achieved in the first and second sleep cycle of the evening. The remaining cycles are mostly comprised of Stage 2 and REM sleep and our most vivid dreams are in the latter part of our night of sleep. Please see the below chart for a sample of an 8 hour night of sleep:
As mentioned above, a standard sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes. Using that 90 minutes as a baseline, we should be trying to get in about 5 sleep cycles in a night. That would provide us with 450 minutes of sleep. In hours, that equates to 7 and a half hours of sleep. So now does it make sense when we hear people recommend that we get 7.5 – 8 hours of sleep a night?
Each stage of sleep is necessary and very important, but some stages have distinct advantages that we should be trying to tap into. You could call deep sleep somewhat of our natural “fountain of youth”. This is where your body releases the most HGH (human growth hormone), repairs tissues and cleanses the body of unwanted waste. Deep sleep is also where your body is going to help you keep off those unwanted pounds and maintain and build lean muscle. Look and feel younger and lose some unwanted pounds! Sign me up! All types of sleep are restorative, but the deeper levels of sleep really take it up a notch. Therefore, we should be trying to prioritize that specific stage of sleep.
- Try and get to bed in the 10:00 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. timeframe consistently. Between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. is often the sleep “sweet spot” where your body will dip into the deeper levels of sleep more readily
- Try the EWYN studios sleep aid Sleep Slimmer. This product is exclusive to EWYN studios and is designed specifically to not only help you get to sleep faster, but to get into those deeper stages and stay in them a little longer
A regular night’s sleep is a cyclical pattern of a combination of Non-REM and REM sleep. An average sleep cycle is approx. 90 minutes long with our deeper stages of sleep typically occur in the first third of the night (between 10:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m. ). Our REM sleep gets longer and therefore more dreaming occurs in the latter part of our night’s sleep.
Try and get to sleep consistently around 10:00 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. If this is a challenge, don’t hesitate to reach out to your EYWN health coach and ask about our sleep aid – Sleep Slimmer .
Since we’ve stepped through what a night’s sleep looks like… our next investigation will dive into the importance of sleep and steps that we can take to improve it.